You know those kettle corn vendors you see at fairs that pump out mass quantities of popcorn, and make it live on-site?
That’s what Payshee Felt and Steve Bivans now do (except in a not-so-generic way) in St. Paul, MN with their popcorn business, Payshee’s Popcorn.
But they didn’t start that way. They actually used their cottage food law to prepackage dozens of bags of homemade popcorn for their local farmers market each week.
And they did that from home for two years before they were ready to make the leap to some pretty-pricey equipment for popping tons of popcorn live at events.
They have gone from making just a few hundred dollars each weekend, to now selling over $5k of popcorn in a weekend!
Initially, Payshee romanticized her vision for the business, imagining herself custom-flavoring each bag for a customer in real-time, and serving it from a Cretors wagon.
That idealistic vision not only delayed their business, but also cost them a pretty-penny before they realized that they should just keep it simple and start from home.
In 2011, Kourtney had romantic ideas about starting a pie business and selling at the local farmers market. But life (jobs, family, kids, etc) got in the way and it wasn’t until 2019 that her dream became reality.
Kourtney Rojas lives in Anaheim, CA and sells fruit pies, chess pies, and other pastries with her cottage food business, With Love, From Scratch.
After 8 years of selling pies sporadically to family and friends, she finally decided to turn her pie hobby into a real business. She entered a pie contest, started posting high-quality photos on Instagram, and she’s never looked back!
After only two years, she has amassed over 3,000 followers on Instagram, and she now sells over 100 pies per week!
As a stay-at-home mom, she has learned how to say “no” and turn down opportunities that aren’t a good fit for her.
Having a home business has given Kourtney the freedom to adapt her work life to her family, not the other way around. But she’s also not afraid to admit that finding the right balance between the two is often a struggle.
Although her business journey has required flexibility, patience, and constant learning, Kourtney explains why it has unfolded in exactly the right way.
Running a successful custom cake business is a lot of work. Running a popular Etsy shop is also a lot of work. And taking care of young kids full-time is definitely a lot of work.
Meet April Spencer, who has managed to do all three AT THE SAME TIME!
April is a cake decorator and sugar artist who lives in Harrod, OH and sells impressive custom cakes and lollipops with her cottage food business, Spencer’s Sugar Shop.
In addition to running a very successful custom cake business from home, April also rented a commercial kitchen to sell her custom lollipops on Etsy and ship them across the nation. She’s currently put the Etsy business on pause due to the mass influx of weddings recently, but at one point she was shipping out over 30 custom lollipop orders per week!
As if running two businesses and a young family weren’t enough, April also manages to put a strong focus on her social media presence, and she now has thousands of social media followers.
How does she do it all? Nobody knows for sure, but listen in and learn how she went from knowing NOTHING about cake decorating to becoming one of the most popular bakers in her area in just a few short years.
Eric Sorensen’s home bakery business may be small, but that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant!
Eric lives in Pullman, WA and sells homemade bread, bagels, and pretzels with his cottage food business, Clumsy Crow Baking.
Unlike most bakers, Eric doesn’t sell throughout the year, or even throughout the summer. Instead, he takes frequent sailing trips for a month at a time, and only boots up the baking business when he’s back home. And when he returns, his customers are ready!
He started selling his bread back in 2017, and grew his customer base by selling at winter markets. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, he switched to selling solely from his driveway, and he hasn’t looked back. He simply puts the bread on his driveway for customers to pickup, and then heads back inside to take a nap!
In addition to being an avid baker, Eric is also an avid learner. In this episode he shares many resources for learning about home baking, and also shares many cost-saving hacks for running a home bakery without going into debt.
He is also an advocate for local grain economies, and shares what he is doing to help get great, sustainable bread into more people’s hands.
In 2019, Justina Rucinski was sexually assaulted in her home in Burlington, IA when a supposed client came to pay for a cookie order. That traumatic event not only forever changed her life, but has also changed cottage food laws around the country.
Justina now lives in San Antonio, TX and continues to sell custom decorated cookies and cakes with her cottage food business, SweetEms.
After her horrific experience, she came very close to shutting down her business. But with massive support from bakers around the world, she has both resurrected it and become one of the most popular cottage food bakers in the United States!
In addition to her business success, Justina has become an advocate for the safety of all home bakers. Because of her story, many states no longer require cottage food producers to put their home address on their product labels.
In this emotional episode, Justina shares how the cottage food community helped lift her out of utter darkness, so that she could once again continue running the business that she loves so much!
It all started with a Facebook page. Back in 2018, Beverly Clutter decided to start showcasing her decorated cookies on social media, but she had no idea that it would soon turn into a business!
Beverly lives in Fairmont, WV and sells custom decorated sugar cookies, cakes, and other baked goods with her cottage food business, WV Cookie Jar.
At the recent national cottage food conference, Beverly earned the top spot on the leaderboard as the most active attendee (out of 900+ attendees), and her submissions into the photo contest were equally impressive.
Whether it is posting on social media, being hyper engaged at a conference, or teaching decorating classes to her local community, Beverly consistently puts herself (and her business) out there and focuses on serving others.
The result? A successful side business that has grown organically, brings her plenty of joy and freedom, and provides her family with some extra income.
With over 300,000 followers, Liz Marek has become very well-known in the cake decorating community! She lives in Beaverton, OR and teaches beginner and advanced bakers how to craft amazing custom-decorated cakes through her online business, The Sugar Geek Show.
Liz began her cake decorating business as a side job just 13 years ago. After running that business from her licensed home kitchen for many years, she started winning cake competitions and making more of a name for herself.
Liz has written books, appeared on television and the Food Network many times, and traveled around the world as a professional speaker. She is a mom to two young children, and she now focuses solely on teaching online through The Sugar Geek Show.
In this interview, Liz shares plenty of helpful tidbits about running a cake business, but what I found most compelling were her many missteps and consistent persistence along the way. Things often didn’t go the way she hoped or planned, but she still made something great out of it by constantly reinventing herself!
This is Part 2 of Liz’s interview. In this episode, Liz shares beginner tips for starting a cake business, what it was like to compete on (and win) Halloween Wars on the Food Network, and more about how the Sugar Geek Show has grown (and where it’s going).
Jeremy Davis is no ordinary dad! On top of working a full-time job and helping his kids with their homework, activities, etc, he runs his lucrative custom cake business, Designed By Daddy, from his home in Charlotte, MI.
But that’s not all. Last year, Jeremy went from being a longtime fan of Food Network competitions to actually participating in one, and then winning it! Then he appeared on Good Morning America, and now he will be back on the Food Network in a couple weeks (March 1st, 2021) for another baking contest.
Unlike most people, marketing his business was the easy part. The hard part was learning how to bake and decorate cakes, since his wife did “all the cooking” in their family, and he considered his former self a “horrible artist”.
If you want to learn how to build a strong social media presence, you won’t want to miss this one. Jeremy breaks down Instagram’s algorithm, and also describes how he used local Facebook groups to build a following quickly.
In addition to sharing an effective social media strategy and giving us a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be on the Food Network, Jeremy talked about cake pricing, dealing with customers, and why he thinks men usually don’t decorate cakes!
Recently I was asked to briefly describe how COVID-19 has impacted the cottage food industry this year. Here’s what I wrote:
“The pandemic has impacted everyone differently, but it has impacted everyone. Some cottage food businesses have shut down temporarily or permanently, while just as many others have seen their sales skyrocket. More cottage food businesses started this year than any other by far, and overall, the pandemic has caused a huge surge of interest in this industry.”
That’s a very simplified view of what has been a crazy and complex year.
In this post, I’ll dig into some of the major trends and story lines that impacted the cottage food industry in 2020.
Lauren Inazu isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. When she was 8, she recruited friends to sell and market her lemonade stand, Lauren’s Sweet Treats. In 5th grade, she started a school newspaper. And now, she recently launched a cottage food business.
Lauren lives in St. Louis, MO and sells all sorts of baked goods with her new business, Count It All Joy.
Between school, homework, piano lessons, sports, youth group, clubs, and Bible study, Lauren is somehow finding time to fulfill baking orders. Sometimes she likes to surprise her classmates with that fact: “I think it’s always kind of fun to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I just have to go make four dozen cookies tonight for an order.’ And they’re like, ‘An order?'”
Lauren may be one of the most ambitious and mature 13-year-olds I have ever met, but she is not unique in wanting to make a little dough from her baked goods. Many kids reach out to me to ask if it is legal for them to sell their creations.
In this episode, Lauren shares what she’s learned about legally starting her cottage food business as a 13-year-old, in hopes of inspiring other young entrepreneurs to try it out as well.
Cuban-inspired, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, organic, low-carb, allergy-friendly, diet-specific, healthy… Noel’s baked goods are certainly unique!
Noel Martinez runs his highly specialized bakery, Mami’s Bakes, from his home kitchen in Pittsburg, PA.
Noel started baking gluten-free for himself when he was diagnosed with celiac disease 20 years ago. Then he started baking sugar-free and low-carb for his “Mami” (mom), who had diabetes.
After Mami passed away in 2019, Noel finally decided to start selling the baked goods that his family and friends had raved about for years.
He started selling to coworkers, and soon enough, they were keeping him busy with orders every week. They also had no problem paying top dollar ($40 for a coffee cake, anyone?) for his products, even though most of them had no diet-specific needs!
Only 6 months in, Noel is still in the early stages of his business. Despite his consistent sales and enthusiastic customers, there are growing pains as well.
Noel shares a view into the ground floor of a new business, including his process for improving recipes, pricing products, building an email list, attracting raving fans, sourcing ingredients, and finding time to run a side business while working two part-time jobs.
Becca Aronowitz from Richmond Hill, GA makes some of the best cake pops you have ever seen.
After Becca quit her job as an art teacher in 2012, she started Sweet Whimsy Shop to sell her cake pops and help support her family.
8 years and 40,000+ cake pops later, Becca has become a true master at the cake pop art form.
But unlike many entrepreneurs that start with big dreams for the future, Becca never envisioned becoming well-known for her cake pops.
As she puts it: “I had not thought about that at all. I just thought this is a way that I can sell cake pops. That was really where it ended.”
But that’s most definitely not where it ended for this “pretty extreme introvert”. So far, her largest order totaled around $4,000, and her cake pops have even appeared on national television!
Becca talks everything cake pops: making, pricing, sculpting, decorating, inverting, etc. She also shares her journey from art teacher to business owner, how she handles social media as an introvert, how she runs her business on two hours per day, and some crazy experiences she’s had along the way.
When Dr. Christine Bertz started beekeeping, she didn’t care if she made any money from it. In fact, her main motivation was to support pollinator conservation efforts. But now, only three years in, her honey business is blossoming and she is having trouble keeping up with customer demand!
Christine lives in Memphis, TN and sells honey and jams with her cottage food business, B & Bees Provisions. In addition to selling, she gives her products away to benefit charities through her participation in triathlons and marathons.
Christine talks about the importance of beekeeping, how to start a beehive in your backyard, and how her fear of bees has transformed into an utter fascination and love of them.
When it comes to creating custom decorated cookies, Tina is very prepared. She owns a plethora of cookie cutters (including over 500 just for Christmas), and amazingly, she is always looking to buy more!
Tina lives in Saginaw, MI and has run her popular cookie business, the Chunky Chicken Cookie Company, for the past three years. Whether she is designing cookies or naming chickens, her creativity shines through.
Tina talks about how she manages to decorate hundreds of cookies each week, as well as pricing, resources, and what she’s learned over the years. She also shares her philosophy about putting life onto cookies to make the world a happier place.
For David Kaminer, sourdough bread is a way of life. After graduating from culinary school and spending 15 years working in commercial bakeries and restaurants, he built a pizza oven into his kitchen and opened Raleigh Street Bakery in Denver, CO in 2015.
He now has dozens of customers who show up each week to pick up their near-perfect sourdough baguettes, boules, and batards from his in-home bakery.
After working in a factory that produced 40,000 loaves of bread per day, David appreciates the slower pace of his cottage food business, plus the opportunities it brings to connect with his local community.
David talks about the ins and outs of running a lucrative home bakery, intentionally limiting business to prioritize his family, and why he only sells one type of product: sourdough bread.
Farmer, baker, author, law advocate, speaker, mother, podcaster, entrepreneur… Lisa Kivirist wears many hats!
She and her husband, John Ivanko, run a B&B ecofarm in Wisconsin, and co-authored the most popular book for the cottage food industry: Homemade for Sale.
Lisa is a national speaker, runs a podcast, and was one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit that gave Wisconsin bakers their freedom to sell. Most recently, she spearheaded a new project to help farmers make the most of their produce by selling it as cottage foods.
Lisa talks about living off the land, moving away from the corporate life-style, creatively packaging products, diversifying income streams, advocating for your laws, and everything in between.
Have you ever dreamed of opening a brick and mortar bakery someday?
So did Diana, the owner of I Love Pie in Carmichael, CA. But she never thought her dream would come true so soon!
After selling at the farmers market for a year and a half, her pie business grew so much that she expanded into her own commercial kitchen and storefront. And now, just 6 months later, she is planning to open a second location!
On paper, it looked like a recipe for failure: selling a common food item (regular fruit pies) in a highly competitive and health-conscious market, all while juggling a full-time job.
So how did she do it? Why was she so successful? Ultimately, you will see that it wasn’t the product, or the market, but rather, Diana herself, that made all the difference.
If you are thinking of selling your homemade food, then this episode is for you!
For this inaugural episode of The Forrager Podcast, I decided to give you a crash course on the first things you need to know to start a cottage food business.
You’ll learn about the cottage food industry and better understand how you can legally start a food business from your home kitchen.
You will also hear about my own journey in starting a cottage food business, what I learned along the way, and why I started this podcast.
If you want to start a home food business, there are a number of potential limitations that you should be aware of. Learn about the different limitations that states may include in their cottage food laws.
Many states limit the amount of homemade food that you can sell. Learn about why sales limits exist, how they’re enforced, and why they shouldn’t stop your food business from taking off.
In most states, you can only sell certain types of homemade food. Most cottage food laws only allow nonperishable food items, but some states allow almost all types of food, while other states are very restrictive. Learn about what types of homemade food products you can sell under your cottage food law.
Nearly all states require a label on cottage food products, and there are many things to consider when creating labels for your home food business.
When starting a home food business, it’s usually a good idea to take some form of food safety training, and it’s often required. Learn about the three most common types of food safety training.
When starting a cottage food operation, you may have to get your home kitchen inspected. Learn about some of the things you should check before an inspection.
Do you need to get a business license to sell homemade food? Learn about what to consider when setting up a business license for a cottage food operation.
When starting a home food business, you will likely need to deal with the health or ag department. Learn about what you should be aware of when contacting these departments.
Zoning laws may be the largest barrier to starting your cottage food business. Learn about why zoning laws exist and what you can do to comply with them.
For most of us, starting a business isn’t easy. Let’s say you want to start your home food business — what do you do? Depending on where you live, there could be any number of barriers between you and your first sale. Learn about a couple of the first steps to take when starting a cottage food operation.